Thursday, 26 May 2011

Loch Affric Circuit

Tuesday 17th May

We're on holiday at a holiday cottage in Eskadale, close to Beauly just off the road towards Cannich and Glen Affric. The cottage is great, just what we were all looking for. Set in its own grounds it's a long way from any serious civilisation and sits on the south side of of the river Beauly. Having had a couple of shorter walks on Sunday and Monday, we set off on what we were hoping would be a more demanding longer walk around Loch Affric.

Mo and I did this walk a long time ago, (June 2009 to be precise), and at that time we had set off not knowing whether there actually was a complete circuit. That first time we had set off in an anti-clockwise direction, mainly because I knew the path made its way down the length of the loch. This time however we decided that a clockwise direction was best because Mo and I remembered from before that this was a bit of a slog through a Scots Pine forest at what was the end of a long day.

 Through the forest - Scots Pine & Birch

The reward of course is the fantastic view of the loch and glen when we cleared the trees for the first time just beyond Affric Lodge.

 Loch & Lodge - what a location!

With the loch on our right and mountains all round we walked, well strolled if I was being honest, along a well maintained estate track and met no one except a 4 x 4 complete with trailer that passed us. There's a nice feeling walking along on a pleasant day in the Scottish hills while somebody else is working!

 The views just go on and on!

Eventually we reached the head of the loch and, where the river feeds into the loch, we came across some estate buildings, a pretty decent bridge over the river and what looks like a bothy. We never went in because there were people already there and we couldn't decide if they were walkers or workers so we decided to have our lunch by the bridge.

 Head of the loch


The weather by now was set fair but we knew that the forecast was for it to breakdown later in the day with stronger winds and showers. With this in mind we kept lunchtime to a minimum and set off over the bridge and back up the opposite side of the loch. The walk along this side of the loch was more exposed but with the wind at our back we were still comfortable and, in sheltered spots positively warm! The views however stayed just as stunning.

 Looking back along the length of the loch

We took another break where the Allt Coulavie burn crossed the path and the dogs, and the boys, decided that a paddle would be a good idea to cool off. Big kids!!

 Big kids!!

 and dogs of course!!

By the time we set off again the weather was beginning to close in and the wind definitely had the feel of rain in it. We passed the junction on the path that leads up to the three Munros of Mam Sodhail, (the highest mountain on the mainland north of the Caledonian Canal), Carn Eige and Beinn Fhionnlaidh. Way back myself, Andrew and his mate David, (they were the grand old age of 11 at the time), had bagged the first two of these on a beautiful June day in 1991. Great memories.

 The weather closes in

By the time we had reached the lodge again we were getting rain showers fairly regularly but the sun between showers was still pleasant. Only in Scotland!! There was a fair amount of building work going on around the lodge with what looks like a new visitor centre and maybe a holiday cottage that looked very tempting!

 Fancy a week here?

From here it was an easy walk along the estate track along the river and back to the carpark. It had been a fantastic day, with great views and nice memories. We had set off around half past nine and were back at the car just after three, tired and a little stiff but happy!

More Photos

Monday, 23 May 2011

Dunecht House & Grounds

Friday 13th May

Unfortunately last weekend was a disaster from a weather point of view, all three days were a complete washout. Ah well not much we can do about it and since it was the first complete washout of the year we can't be too disappointed.

With us going off on holiday this weekend, we decided that a shorter, less strenuous walk would be more appropriate. The Dunecht estate on the western extremities of Aberdeen was somewhere that was recommended to us a few years ago from a guy I used to work with and we’ve explored it a couple of times – once in winter and once in the autumn – so having a walk round in the spring was a nice change. We parked just up from the imposing gates around half past nine.

 Dunecht House Gates

The weather was bright but with a brisk, cool wind. The drive winds its way up between trees that I don’t know the name of, (we really need to do some studying on tree recognition), and we were lucky enough to catch a quick glimpse of a red squirrel, so it’s nice to see that they’re still hanging in there. At the end of this first part the drive turns right between a couple of gate houses and the trees change to copper beech, (much easier to recognise), then eventually to chestnut. Rather bizarrely, there's also a cricket pitch, complete with sight screens and scoreboard!

 Cricket Pitch

Just past the cricket pitch and what looks like the gardener’s house and workshops we climbed up some steps at the side of a stone shed to have a look over into what had obviously been a walled garden in the heyday of the estate. It looks now like a market garden or nursery with the obligatory poly-tunnels and greenhouses which seems a shame because it looks to have been a nice spot. Just past this the road splits and the right hand branch takes an arrow straight route up to the big house. If you'd like to read a brief description and history of the house you can find it here .

 Drive to the Big House

The building itself is huge with well tended gardens set within a locked up fence. We did climb the gate on our last visit but on our way out that day we bumped into another couple who had been warned not to enter the gardens as they were strictly private, so this time we restricted ourselves to taking photos from outside the boundary fence. There are gates at either end of the courtyard that have always been open at the time of our visits and they have a couple of strange designs. It would be interesting if there was an explanation somewhere!

 I'm pretty sure this is a deep sea diver

 But what this guy is, I'm not so sure!

We made our way through the courtyard towards the back of the house, at least I assume it's the back of the house, and along the side of the chapel. Why a house, even a house of this size, would need a chapel of this big must be open to debate, It is however extremely impressive.


The road carries on out the other end of the courtyard through more trees that I can't identify and up towards a small group of cottages that were probably, and possibly still are, part of the estate. It then loops round the cottages with a branch heading off towards another exit, however our route followed the loop all the way round and we headed back towards the centre of the grounds.

 Towards the cottages

The estate also boasts a nine hole golf course and it was at the 6th /12 tee, which overlooks a sheltered pond, that we sat and had our coffee and the obligatory chocolate. It was a pleasant spot, sheltered from the wind but in a nice sunny position.

 Duck Pond, (I know the birds are geese!!)

 The Big House from the Golf Course

From here we continued on the tarred road until we came to a gate house and yet another exit from the grounds, but just before we reached it we cut left onto a farm track that leads along the edge of the grounds. After a hundred yards or so we made our way down through the woods to pick up a path we had found on our previous visits that runs along the banks of the ornamental loch. We were still well sheltered from the wind at this point and it was turning into a very nice day.

 Great Spot

 The Big House from across the loch

We sat again at the top end of the loch, but by that time we were out of the shelter of the trees and the wind was still brisk and cool, so we followed the road across the centre of the golf course, where we picked up the end of the drive up to the house. Our walk however was not quite finished. After retracing our steps past the cricket pitch to the twin gate houses we turned right rather than left so that we could have a look at the other, smaller loch. This loch always seems to have more wildlife on and around it. I'm not sure why, it just does.

 Smaller Loch

 The swans came along to say hello

From here it was a pleasant walk back down the tree lined drive to the car. We had set off just after half past nine and were back just before twelve so a nice easy walk before we set off on holiday to Glen Affric tomorrow.

More Photos

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Morven from Logie Coldstone

Friday 29th April

After the success of the last two weeks we finally took up the challenge and decided, rightly or wrongly, to try our hand at a "proper" hill. In this case we chose Morven because for the last month or so I've photographed it from various other parts of Deeside, (Pressendye, Morven Lodge) and with an abortive attempt earlier in the year, we felt the time was right to give it  go. The weather was good although with a haze that wasn't going to help with the photographs, but on the up side there was no chance of rain. We started from the end of a small public road just outside the village of Logie Coldstone at around 10 o'clock.

 Not quite Morven, but first climb for today

The route starts immediately uphill, (whether that's a good thing or not is open to debate), passing close to the ruined farmhouse at Balhennie. Passing through a couple of fields we picked up a path that skirts around and up the side of the lower slopes of Morven. From here there is a choice of routes. There is the option to go straight up the steep slope by a faint zig zag path or take the longer but less steep path around and up the lower slope. We decided that, under the circumstances, maybe we were pushing our luck to tackle the steep climb and, added to the fact that we had plenty of time, we decided on the longer, less steep ascent.


The path was pretty marshy in places early on but soon became a good, obvious route that opened up views over Deeside with Lochs Davan and Kinord easily picked out as well as Pressendye to the north east. The path makes its way up the Cainlach Burn with Morven on our right and Roar Hill on our left until eventually the true summit of Morven comes into view and it was time to leave, or at least, change paths. It was also time for a cup of coffee!

 First proper view towards the summit

The new bulldozed path, (not shown on my Landranger map), carried on up and around the lower slopes but steeper now, heading parallel with the slopes of the main hill. This track finished at what looked like a turning area and an older, fainter path carried on, apparently heading away from Morven. I decided that since none of these paths were marked on the map, and since we appeared to be walking away from our destination, it was time to take a more direct route towards the summit. In one corner of the turning area there appeared to be a faint path heading across the heather and uphill towards the summit ridge, so it was this that we took. We were now getting good, if very hazy, views of Lochnagar and Mount Keen as well as the great mountainous barrier of the Cairngorms.

 A very hazy Lochnagar

The plod up through the heather was hard work and, as we got higher, it became obvious that the path we had been following did eventually swing round to climb up onto the ridge we were aiming for. What we didn't know at the time was whether or not this would have been an easier, if longer climb. Once we got above the deep heather the going got easier and we crested the ridge at about 700 metres between Little Cairn and the false summit of Mid Cairn.

 Little Cairn, (700m)

 Mid Cairn, (840m)

We took a short break and more photos at Little Cairn before the quite long ridge walk towards the bottom of a steep section up onto the false summit of Mid Cairn. Although the climb is pretty steep it is over a fairly short distance and after our battle up through the heather it was no great hardship.

 Heading up to Mid Cairn

From Mid Cairn it's a steady, relatively easy, uphill pull to the huge summit cairn. The only down side was that, being a holiday weekend, the summit was busy. Obviously not everybody wanted to watch the Royal Wedding!!

 The end in sight!

 Summit cairns

 872m - nice feeling!

Although the weather was still very pleasant the wind had really picked up, so we hunkered down behind the wall that enclosed the trig point and had a very nice lunch looking down into Glenfenzie and Morven Lodge where we'd had our lunch last week. A little bit surreal but we were feeling quite pleased with ourselves!

 Glenfenzie & Morven Lodge

Our walk down was fairly uneventful. We retraced our steps except that we followed the path beyond Little Cairn and found that although it was a clear path, it was no less steep than the way we had taken earlier. That said if I was asked to recommend the best way I would suggest that you stick to the path! We arrived safely back at the car just before three, very tired but really chuffed!!